Councillor Lewis Herbert, Leader of the Labour Group on Cambridge City Council, has spoken out ahead of the expected publication of a report to January’s Planning Committee on the appeal and costs decision on Wilton Terrace, calling for a full review of how Council finances were put at risk, saying that lessons must be learned but also that the debate over the City’s growth must not be stifled.
Councillor Herbert said: “The Council must undertake a detailed review given the major financial loss expected following the Wilton Terrace appeal ruling. Whilst recognising that Planning Committee members have, and should retain, the freedom to decide planning applications on the merits of each case as they see them, it is clear that the Council must look at every aspect of this appeal and costs decision and learn lessons. We want to see an objective and fully transparent report to the Committee and to the Full Council covering the long history of this site, which included three committee decisions in 2012 and 2013 following the decision on the masterplan for CB1 in 2008.”
Councillor Herbert added: “The first steps in understanding what went wrong will be up to Planning Committee members when they meet on 8th January, recognizing that members of this regulatory committee act as individuals free of party directions. We specifically support the Committee considering adding an additional review process so that future decisions to overturn an officer recommendation on a major application are reported back to the following Planning Committee, including on the detailed planning grounds, before any final decision is taken.”
“There will continue to be times when councillors overturn officer recommendations but such decisions need serious thought, and both developers and residents must continue to have confidence that they can make their own case to committee and be balanced against all other facts in each case. We would support an in depth review by the committee of other improvements including training and support for committee members. There have been many changes to the national planning framework since 2010 which have affected appeals and the way that the Planning Inspectorate works. We also want the committee to review what can be learned from other councils including regular detailed reporting back to them on recent appeals and the City Council’s performance at appeals, as well as more detailed records of committee decisions. “
“The speed and scale of development in Cambridge has often led to passionate debates about the future of the City and about individual sites and we want to ensure, at the same time as implementing a package of new measures, that planning debate is not stifled.”